Winter storm research gets a local helping hand

Forecasting East Coast snowstorms may soon get a little easier, thanks in part to the faculty and students at one of our area universities.

News 12 Staff

Jan 22, 2020, 3:17 PM

Updated 1,553 days ago

Share:

Winter snow in the Northeast is quickly catching up with death and taxes in terms of guarantees. We may catch a lucky break every now and then (see: current winter) but more often than not, we get quite powdery from December to March - sometimes in November and April too!
While much of the country turns white during the winter, we along the eastern seaboard are more susceptible to really big snows thanks to our ocean proximity. Land-originating systems like Alberta Clippers typically move through rapidly, and thus leave us with minor accumulations. Cold fronts can sometimes cause headaches, but warmer air riding up ahead of them is also a limiting factor (that rain/snow line loves to play games with us forecasters.) But coastal storms (often Nor'easters) pack an extra punch. They usually contain a lot more moisture, and when they interact with arctic air coming down from Canada, you can get a winter wonderland in a hurry.
Snowfall within these storms is frequently organized in banded structures that are poorly understood by both meteorologists and computer models. We have seen vast improvements in weather technology since the last major East Coast winter storm study - ERICA in 1988 - so NASA decided it was about time to conduct a new one. And Long Island's Stony Brook University is going to be there to help.
Over the course of three six-week deployments, the Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms (IMPACTS) will fly aircraft with advanced weather-sensing equipment. IMPACTS will address several objectives and providing observations that are critical to better understanding how these storms organize and evolve.
While hopeful to experience one of those good ol' fashioned coastal storms this winter, the university's School of Marine and Atmospheric Science will be testing any snow-producing storms. With 2020's first snow event of note this past weekend, they conducted their initial field day at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. The day began with hitching a trailer containing their next-generation radar, along with several other weather-tracking instruments.
"Most operational radars scan every five or six minutes, so you only get data every five or six minutes," says Stony Brook Professor Brian Colle. "This radar we have here is actually scanning continuously, so we're actually getting data every few seconds in a volume of about 90°, and so we can actually see the evolution of the snow and the snow bands within the cloud in ways that we haven't been able to before."
"This is the future of radar," says his associate Pavlos Kollias. "In addition to continuous scanning, this radar has no moving parts, which makes it extremely mobile. Stony Brook [School of Marine and Atmospheric Science] is one of the only in the country to have this."
To augment the data being collected on the ground, graduate students on hand assisted with tri-hourly weather balloon launches, which measured vertical profiles in the atmosphere during the snow event. All of this real-time weather data was transmitted back to both the Stony Brook contingent and NASA.
NASA, which has granted the school $1.4 million for research over the next few winters, also flew multiple aircraft through the storm to record measurements that will further advance understanding of the winter storm mechanics.
The entire research crew from Stony Brook is thrilled to be underway with this project. "We're very excited today; we've been waiting for this for about a year," says Colle. "This is the first of three years we are going to be using this technology out in the field."
Colle says that the data will also be used for weather models -- and for students to use in their own research.
 
 


More from News 12
DA: 3 teens indicted for killing bystander, wounding 4 in subway shooting

DA: 3 teens indicted for killing bystander, wounding 4 in subway shooting

1:49
Scattered showers across Wednesday; colder weather arrives Thursday

Scattered showers across Wednesday; colder weather arrives Thursday

1:15
State taxi federation raises reward for information to help stop carjackings, robberies

State taxi federation raises reward for information to help stop carjackings, robberies

1:42
Irish consulate general joins BP Gibson for a Woodlawn walkthrough

Irish consulate general joins BP Gibson for a Woodlawn walkthrough

1:00
Fordham Road BID discusses local improvements made, offers a look toward the future

Fordham Road BID discusses local improvements made, offers a look toward the future

1:56
MTA meets with riders in Fordham to hear their concerns with current transit system

MTA meets with riders in Fordham to hear their concerns with current transit system

0:59
City now has power to padlock illegal cannabis stores

City now has power to padlock illegal cannabis stores

1:30
NYPD: Shooting suspect linked to death of 24-year-old in Melrose still on the loose

NYPD: Shooting suspect linked to death of 24-year-old in Melrose still on the loose

0:30
Bronx hip-hop star MC Sha-Rock, Bronx Historical Society offering $1,000 scholarship

Bronx hip-hop star MC Sha-Rock, Bronx Historical Society offering $1,000 scholarship

1:44
'I can sleep better.' Longwood resident thanks News 12 for report on Bruckner Expressway construction noise

'I can sleep better.' Longwood resident thanks News 12 for report on Bruckner Expressway construction noise

1:20
Police: $1,000 stolen from Bronx gas station at gunpoint; suspects at large

Police: $1,000 stolen from Bronx gas station at gunpoint; suspects at large

State police: Victim of I-684 car crash identified as convicted murderer in country illegally

State police: Victim of I-684 car crash identified as convicted murderer in country illegally

2:50
Residents in Morris Heights living in ‘uninhabitable’ conditions demand fair housing

Residents in Morris Heights living in ‘uninhabitable’ conditions demand fair housing

1:34
'We really want to find him.' Wakefield family searches for missing loved one

'We really want to find him.' Wakefield family searches for missing loved one

0:45
New York Botanical Garden celebrates Earth Day

New York Botanical Garden celebrates Earth Day

1:27
Scholar Athlete: Tiarra Jackson

Scholar Athlete: Tiarra Jackson

1:49
Spring break in the Bronx: Low-cost events and activities around the borough

Spring break in the Bronx: Low-cost events and activities around the borough

1:43
Jamie Towers residents rally against increased rent, citing unsanitary conditions

Jamie Towers residents rally against increased rent, citing unsanitary conditions

0:27
Sanitation workers to collect trash earlier to speed up cleaning NYC streets

Sanitation workers to collect trash earlier to speed up cleaning NYC streets

0:30
Police: Bronx commuter wanted for spraying MTA employee in the face with 'an unknown substance'

Police: Bronx commuter wanted for spraying MTA employee in the face with 'an unknown substance'